Paleo Caesar Salad

In each issue of Paleo Magazine, I share the history of a traditional recipe and adapt it to fit into a healthier paleo lifestyle. For the July issue, I explored the disputed but entertaining story of this classic bowl of greens.


To understand the story of the Caesar Salad, travel back in time to Prohibition-era California — warm sun and empty cocktail glasses. Then imagine the rollicking good time to be had just across the border in Tijuana, Mexico, where Prohibition was merely a foreign word. That’s where Caesar Cardini, an Italian chef who landed in San Diego after World War I, opened his restaurant. It was called Caesar’s Palace.

According to lore, on July 4, 1924, the restaurant had a rush of customers — patriotic revelers who wanted to celebrate Independence Day and enjoy an adult beverage, perhaps? On the brink of running out of food for his hungry clientele, Caesar tossed together a salad with what he had available: romaine lettuce, coddled eggs, and olive oil. The original salad was served with the leaves whole, stems facing out, with the ingredients piled in the middle, so customers could eat the salad with their fingers, using the leaves as scoops. It was often prepared table side with flair by Caesar himself, the dressing mixed from fresh ingredients right before the diners’ hungry eyes.

But Caesar’s brother Alex has another version of the tale, and his account has all the charm of a screwball comedy from Hollywood’s golden age. After a long night of drinking, as the story goes, a troupe of pilots missed their curfew and spent the night at Caesar’s Palace. The next morning, Alex made them what he dubbed an “Aviator’s Salad” for breakfast — putting his own spin on the recipe with anchovies —before sending them on their way. That recipe evolved and eventually came to be known as a Caesar Salad, in honor of the restaurant where it originated.

Whichever story you choose to believe, there’s no denying that the combination of briny anchovy, pungent garlic, tangy lemon, and smooth olive oil — plus crunchy croutons — is a luscious combination. It’s infiltrated American pop culture. The salad was immortalized in an episode of the TV show Bewitched, in which the witchy Esmeralda summoned Julius Caesar to help Samantha prepare the salad. And a Lucille Ball/Desi Arnez movie called The Long Long Trailer had poor Lucy trying to make the salad in a moving Airstream trailer; hilarity ensued. (You can watch Lucy online here!)

It’s said that Julia Child dined at Caesar’s Palace when she was a child in the 1920s and enjoyed a salad made by Caesar Cardini himself which inspired her to include the recipe in her own cookbook decades later. And in 1956, the chefs of the International Society of Epicures in Paris named the Caesar Salad “the greatest recipe to originate from the Americas in 50 years.”


Paleo Caesar Salad

My adaptation of the salad keeps the paleo-friendly dressing ingredients: eggs, olive oil, anchovies, garlic — and replaces the croutons with a homemade version made from yucca root so they’re grain and nut free. Don’t shy away from the anchovies in this recipe; they add the umami that gives the Caesar its classic flavor.

Serves 6 | Whole30 compliant (without croutons)

  • 1 1/2 pounds yucca root

  • 2 large eggs, separated into whites and yolks

  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil, melted

  • 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1 (2 ounce) can anchovy fillets (packed in olive oil)

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup light-tasting olive oil

  • 3 romaine hearts, roughly torn

  • salt and black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350F. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and brush with a little olive oil.

Make the croutons.

Peel the yucca and chop into 2-inch chunks, removing the stringy bit that runs through the middle of the root. Place the yucca in a food processor and purée, scraping down the sides a few times, until it forms a fine, smooth paste. Place in a large mixing bowl.


In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites, cream of tartar, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until the whites are frothy. Pour into the bowl with the yucca and gently fold the whites into the yucca with a rubber scraper until just combined.


Use the rubber scraper to spread the yucca on the prepared pan. Spread the “dough” about 1/4 inch thick to cover the whole pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges begin to brown and the top looks dry and crackly. Set aside until cool to the touch, then flip over and peel off the parchment paper; return the paper to the baking sheet and increase the oven temp to 400F. Cut the yucca into 1/2-inch cubes.


In a large bowl, whisk the melted ghee, parsley flakes, and 1 clove crushed garlic, then add the yucca cubes, tossing until coated. Spread the croutons in a single layer on the baking sheet and return to the oven. Bake until brown and crisp, 15-25 minutes. Set aside. (They get even crispier as they cool.)

Make the dressing & salad.

Place the anchovies, 1 clove peeled garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, egg yolks, and the oil in an 16-ounce Ball jar. Blend with a stick blender until thickened and set aside.


Place the romaine leaves in a large mixing bowl; add dressing and croutons. Toss gently to combine, then taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. The croutons are best eaten on the same day; the dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

For a jump start on the salad, you can make the crouton “dough” and dressing in advance, then season and re-bake the croutons just before you want to serve the salad. If you have a favorite paleo bread, you can use that in place of the yucca croutons.

For more recipes from me like this one, subscribe to Paleo Magazine!

Crouton 101

Purée and scrape down the sides until it’s a fine, smooth paste.


Use a spatula to create a 1/4-inch thick “dough.”


Beat egg whites with a wire whisk until thick and frothy.


The finished croutons.


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  • Jenny says:

    Hi Mel,

    Would these yucca croutons work as a crisp for dipping in baba ghanoush or fresh salsa or some such? Have not worked with yucca ever and am completely unfamiliar with its flavor/texture.


  • Marcy says:

    I think there’s a step missing between 3 and 4 on the croutons. Or potentially the egg whites should be mixed with the yucca before being spread?

  • Gaby says:

    Those croutons are pure genius! A bit of work but worth it IMO.

  • Beth says:

    This will be the first recipe I try after I complete my current Whole30. Yucca croutons are definitely SWYPO for me considering I already have a list of about ten dips I want to sit on the couch and binge eat them with!

  • Nishma says:

    I’m thinking thawed-from-frozen yucca could probably be used and that would be a lot less work? No need to peel etc.

  • Sonya says:

    “The original salad was served with the leaves whole, stems facing out, with the ingredients piled in the middle, so customers could eat the salad with their fingers, using the leaves as scoops.”

    I love this! Genius! I may start doing that with some of my salads! Love me some Caesar Salad and I’m with Beth (who made me LOL!) on having a list of dips to eat with those croutons! Sunshine Sauce being at the top of the list!

  • Holly B says:

    Thanks for another delicious recpie! Those croutons are amazing!

  • Nicole says:

    Hi, I made this last night and it was fantastic. Thank you for a great recipe! I didn’t have the ingredients to make the croutons so instead I whipped up the almond meal “breadcrumbs” from your comfort noodle recipe and it added great texture to my salad. This dressing will absolutely be added to my regular rotation! Question – how long will it keep in the refrigerator?

    • Glad you liked it! So smart to use te almond flour breadcrumbs!

      The dressing is, essentially, mayo, so it will last in the fridge as long as the expiration date on the egg you used. Enjoy!

      • Anthony says:

        The dressing could expire much sooner since there’s fresh garlic in it. Garlic can harbor botulism bacteria under certain conditions. The five day rule is safest.

  • Jeannette says:

    I made this last night and it was so yummy. Those croutons will become one of my favorite things. Genius! So tasty and crunchy. I am new to paleo and I was dying for something savory and crunchy.
    Thank you

  • jessica says:

    OH MYYYY!!!! This is delish!!! I made this last night in preparation for my husband and I’s lunch. I was a little worried the chicken was going to be to spicy but in the salad and with the dressing it all is so good together! ? Love the garlic dressing too, will definitely be using this for more salads….although my 4 month old may not be a fan (I”m breastfeeding) and she is not so much a fan of garlic. I just can’t stay away from it though! hehe Thanks so much your recipes are fabulous!

  • Barbara says:

    This was SO tasty!!! The croutons, in particular, were amazing. I was bound and determined to get a couple more meals out of the croutons, so on day 2 I spread a handful on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, and put that under the broiler for a couple of minutes. They came out nice and crispy – maybe even better than day 1. This totally ‘hit the spot’.